Scones are an essential feature of most tea parties and brunches worthy of the name. With some quality jam, compote, or clotted cream, fresh scones can even outshine more genteel or elaborate pastries. But their subtle sweetness and flakey-crumbly texture can be challenging to replicate with a gluten-free dough. Many gluten-free recipes, in fact, produce ersatz scones with rubbery or squeaky textures. Some require gelatin. Some rely on nut flours and cannot be consumed by those with allergies. Still others over-sweeten the dough to compensate for a general lack of flavor. None of these belong with a hot cup of Earl Grey or Paris Ginza.
Given the abundance of poor imitations, it would have been easy to surrender all hope of finding a satisfying gluten-free scone and default to cookies or muffins. For a time, we did just that. That is, until we realized that we missed "real" scones a little too much and decided to go back to the kitchen and start from scratch. You can thank us for persevering.
What we have created here is infinitely customizable, although we share our two favorite variations: lemon and orange-cranberry-pecan. We also suggest using a food processor, but we have successfully made these scones using nothing but forks, knives and spoons to do the job. If you can't find amaranth or millet flour, you can grind your own in a clean coffee grinder, spice mill, or the like (just measure AFTER grinding). We understand that the number of different flours may seem daunting at first, but each lends a particular quality (and nutritional benefit) to the dough and works well in concert with the others. The cake enhancer is not required but it will definitely elevate the texture of your dough, so we strongly encourage it. The moral of the story is: Scones are worth it. Don't give up. Use what you have, put your heart into it and it will be delicious. Did we mention these are also low-FODMAP? Bonus. Makes 12 (or however many you want, you will just need to adjust the baking time if you make them smaller).
+/- 1/2 cup buttermilk (120 ml)*
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (113g) or 1 stick very cold unsalted, organic butter
1 cup gluten-free sorghum flour (120g)
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour (50g)**
1/4 cup gluten-free amaranth flour (27g)
1/4 cup gluten-free millet flour (35g)
1/2 cup gluten-free tapioca flour or starch (58g)
1/4 cup glutinous rice (also called "sweet rice") flour (27g), plus extra for shaping the scones
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons guar gum
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar (70g)
2 Tablespoons King Arthur Cake Enhancer (optional)
zest of one lemon + 4 teaspoons lemon juice (20 ml) + chopped, candied lemon peel (optional)
zest of one orange + 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice (15ml) + 2 Tablespoons dried cranberries (20g) and 2 Tablespoons roughly chopped pecans (15g)
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) milk + 1/2 beaten egg for egg wash (optional)
Notes on ingredients:
*If you do not have buttermilk, you can add your chosen citrus juice directly to 1/2 cup whole milk, stir and allow to curdle for at least 5-10 minutes
**If you cannot tolerate gluten-free oat flour, you may substitute an equivalent amount of sorghum flour but the results may be less tender
Chop butter into quarter-inch (6mm) cubes and put in the freezer to keep cold. Measure out buttermilk and set aside. You may need slightly more or less, so have extra on-hand, just in case. Prepare the egg wash in a small bowl by whisking together a Tablespoon (15 ml) milk and half of a beaten egg (you could also use any stray egg yolk you have sitting in the fridge). Set aside.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat and set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 Celsius). You may want to bake at 425 degrees (220 Celsius) if using a very small oven.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and starches, baking powder and soda, salt, guar gum, sugar and cake enhancer. Stir in lemon or orange zest. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade and add the very cold butter cubes. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. You can achieve similar results using a couple of butter knives or a fork and knife (or pastry cutter if you have one) but in this case be sure to use a large bowl.
Add the beaten egg and a scant half-cup buttermilk and lemon or orange juice (if not already added to sour the milk). Pulse until the dough comes together as a cohesive, but just barely moist, ball. You may need to add additional buttermilk, one Tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, to achieve this consistency. If you are making the dough by hand, stir the buttermilk and egg in with a large spoon, keep stirring until all the wet ingredients are incorporated. Add a little buttermilk and stir some more if there are too many crumbs that resist joining the dough ball.
On a clean, large surface, such as a kitchen counter, spread a generous amount of glutinous rice flour (don't be tempted to use other starches--they can ruin all your efforts up until this point) and transfer the dough ball into the center of the flour. Press the cranberries and pecans into the dough (if using). Alternately, for some extra zing you could add candied lemon peel at this juncture if you choose the lemon variation. Then pour more glutinous rice flour onto the top of the dough ball and use floured hands to press it gently into a disk roughly five-eighths of an inch (1.5 cm) thick. Take a floured dough scraper or large serrated knife and divide the dough into four equal pie wedges and then again into three segments each, for a total of 12. You may need to clean the knife/dough scraper between cuts. Transfer each wedge to the prepared pan, spacing them at least 1.25 inches (3 cm) apart. Brush the tops with a little egg wash (using the egg-milk mixture you prepared at the beginning) if you like, and put the tray directly in the hot oven.
Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (425 in a very compact oven) or 230 Celsius for 13-15 minutes, monitoring closely after the ten-minute mark. Once the edges start turning the slightest bit golden and the tops of the scones spring back after a gentle touch, they are done. Remove from the oven and serve promptly or allow to cool on the baking pan. Any cooled, uneaten scones may be stored in an airtight container and left at room temperature for up to two days. Cooled scones can also be frozen then reheated in foil in a warm oven for 15 minutes.